Problem solving case study

Lissa had a problem. She wanted to buy a house. But she didn’t want to sacrifice her lifestyle to the mortgage repayments.

Here’s the steps we’d take Lissa through to sort out her situation. You can use the same steps to solve problems in your life.

Work out the real scope of the problem

Critically evaluate the extent of the problem. Then describe the problem in one sentence. This helps you narrow down the issue you are working on. In Lissa’s case, the problem was summarised in the words “I want to buy a house but I don’t think I can afford the mortgage.”

Get your facts straight

Gather as many facts as you can within a reasonable timeframe. But don’t let a lack of complete information become a reason for procrastinating. A decision based on partial knowledge is usually better than not making a decision at all. The facts Lissa needed to gather were: the average selling price of properties in the area she wanted to buy, rental costs in the same area, the total she would need to borrow, repayments on a loan of this size and her monthly income.

Think creatively about options

Make a list of all the possible choices you have, including the choice of doing nothing. Make sure you consider options other people would see in your situation. For example, Lissa had many options open to her. These included: buying a house and living in it alone; purchasing a house and renting a room to a boarder; acquiring a house in partnership with a friend and living in it together; purchasing a house and renting it out; buying a flat and living in it; continuing to rent for the rest of her life.

Use logical criteria for choosing options

Consider the negatives of each alternative. These might include cost, consequences, problems created or time factors. Then think about the positives. These might include money saved, time saved, resources acquired. Also consider any risks involved in each alternative. The simplest way to make your decision is to list the criteria you will use to make your decision. For Lissa these were affordability, opportunity to enter the housing market, ability to maintain current lifestyle. Using these criteria, she decided to buy a house and rent it out for five years before moving into it.

Make your plan

Work out how to take action on your options. Create an action plan by writing down the steps you need to take. Lissa put her plan into action within the first month and has just purchased a house in her dream suburb.

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